Saturday, August 13, 2016

On a Boat

Yesterday we went on a 7-hour excursion up the famous Nā Pali Coast and onward.
We left from Port Allen, the small harbor that's now mainly for day-cruise boats and a weekly delivery of diesel fuel to power the electric generator for this side of the island. Not long after departure, our boat was passing by the Pacific Missile Range Facility near Barking Sands Beach. The captain stopped the boat, and suddenly we were flooded with the sound of the Star Spangled Banner, which resounds over the ocean from the loudspeakers at the Base every morning at 8 AM. For the official history of the base, including its role in World War II, see this page

The Nā Pali side of Kauai is accessible only by boat or helicopter because most of the cliffs are incredibly steep, dropping into the ocean down a 1000 to 2000 foot sheer face. Occasionally the cliffs part slightly to reveal a little flat land with a beach and often a waterfall where the water comes down from the rainy peaks above. An 11-mile trail allows really intrepid hikers to one such beach -- we talked to a young man who had walked down and camped there for a few days a year or so ago, using the waterfall as his shower. Some adventure!

Until around a century ago, villages of native Hawaiian people occupied some of these flatter sites, with a few hundred or a few thousand people farming the small, level area. A few bad storms drove them away. Hurricanes and gigantic winter swells from the North Pacific occasionally wash over most of the lower-lying lands.

Len's incredible dolphin photo.
After the Nā Pali coast tour, our boat, the Blue Dolphin, headed for the island of Niihau, around 17 miles from Kauai, which is a long passage even on a large, motor-powered catamaran. We saw three types of dolphins (bottle-nosed, spinners, and rough-toothed), flying fish, and many sea birds. We anchored next to a very small island, Lehua, near Niihau, which is a bird sanctuary as well as a snorkel site.

Birds on Lehua island near Niihau.
Unfortunately, we discovered that climate change warming the Pacific Ocean has bleached the coral at the snorkel site where we were. The colors are very muted, and much of the coral may be dead. We saw some fish, but nowhere near our expectations. It's one more very sad change that we have witnessed.

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